December 6, 2009 § 2 Comments
I find myself increasingly attempting to live minimally- reducing what I use and purchase.
Everything I am curious to learn about or am learning reinforces the beauty of minimalism. Minimalism sounds easy but is hard to put into action. At the very start, attempts to live a minimal lifestyle requires attention to every aspect of life.
Keen to work on my writing skills, I finished On Writing Well, penned by the passionate, writer-extraordinaire William Zinsser. Simplicity is the second basic tenet of writing he mentions in the book. Simplicity, the way Zinsser explains it, keeps writing compact and clean. Writing that is simplified to its core elements are a pleasure to read.
I found it helpful that Zinsser declares “clutter” as the enemy of writing. He identifies corporate jargon and political correctness is the posterboy of cluttered writing.
Clutter is the official language used by corporations to hide their mistakes
What Zinsser preaches for writing , I found in the mantra of good business and computing. Getting Real! is Chicago based software company 37Signals’s manifesto for simplicity and minimalism in computing. In a world where the word “simplicity” is loved by all, not all businesses practice what they preach. Especially when all around you, competitors are striving to one-up each other in functions and capability. How could you not do one better, or at least follow suit?
The 37Signals team preaches simple, straightforward functionality over things that seem to represent actual work done. Delivering a project with just one awesome function will always beat a product with unfocused and cluttered objectives.
Don’t use seven words when four will do.
-Rusty Ryan (Brad Pitt) in Ocean’s 11
Kids, Try This At Home!
The most immediate application of elimination/ simplification was with my closet at home. Of all the clothing I owned or bought for the past 5 years, I could tell that I wore 20% of it for 80% of the time. That leaves a bunch of stuff that I hardly touch, or probably worn once. (like really bright colored stuff, oversized jeans after I lost weight etc) After all, we’ve only got 24 hours in a day, 7 days a week. There’s only so much clothing you can wear at any one time.
I ended up cleaning out that 80% that didn’t matter, handed it all to the Salvation Army.
Congratulations to the lucky guy/girl that gets my 2006 Eric Clapton Singapore Tour T-shirt. Well its a good thing, now I have to be creative with whats left in my closet by doing smart color combinations and layering.
Far From Zen
I haven’t have much success simplifying and minimizing other aspects of my living space though. Cleaning out work and living spaces is a nightmare. The last time I did it, it took me all of daylight, leaving me physically and mentally drained. And since I did it a few months ago, clutter has been building up around me ever since.
I’m looking towards one successful writer that managed to achieve 19 impressive breakthrough goals by focusing on simplifying one habit at a time.
Leo Babauta of Zen Habits sums up his success formila for achievement in two steps:
1. Identify the essential
2. Eliminate the Rest
What makes Leo’s mantra so compelling? Its simple, straightforward, and actionable. No complicated set of systems to buy into, no messy flowchart of what to do next.
Perfection is now then there is no more to add, but no more to take away
-Antoine De Saint Exupery (author of The Little Prince)
Perhaps the biggest actionable lesson I got in “living the simple life” I got during my “vagabonding” trip in Vietnam. As mentioned in earlier posts, Vietnam was a huge learning experience. I was amazed at how much I managed to fit my life into a backpack. I lived out adventures and new friendships out of it. While the living conditions at dormitories and hostels couldn’t compare to the comforts of home, they weren’t uncomfortable at all. For the price of what a Singaporean college student would pay for a Starbucks drink, she could pay for a night’s stay at a backpacker’s hostel in Hanoi. For the price of a restaurant meal in Singapore, she could buy herself three days’ worth of sumptuous street food in Bangkok or Penang.
In retrospective, Vietnam made me conscious of my spending habits within a consumer, spending-oriented society.
As with, say, giving up coffee, simplifying your life will require a somewhat difficult consumer withdrawal period. Fortunately, your impending travel experience will give you a very tangible and rewarding long-term goal that helps ease the discomfort. Over time, as you reap the sublime rewards of simplicity, you’ll begin to wonder how you ever put up with such a cluttered life in the first place.
-Rolf Potts, Vagabonding
It might seem like counter-intuitive thinking at first, but the big lessons come down to:
1. Reducing material burdens actually gives us more options in life.
2. A simplified creation process gives us a beautiful and useful end product.